Craig v Slater Day 14 (media roundup)

Photo: Chris McKeen via Stuff

Yesterday was the last day when witnesses gave testimony.  With Wednesday and Thursday set aside for closing, the whole trial more or less came in on time.  This is mostly due to Brian Henry offering not to call Jordan Williams and Christine Rankin as witnesses.  As the trial progressed it has become clear they could not add any new pertinent information for the court as it had all been covered by others before them.   Nevertheless, Mr Craig still managed to chew considerable amount of hours keeping Cam Slater and Rachel MacGregor in the witness box.   As is his prerogative and right.  But the court encouraged him repeatedly to be more focused.

So Team WO actually get to have a few days off to prepare for closing.

Fridays are always slack days for media, and it was no different in court as only Fairfax had turned up.  Even the “funny guy” decided it was no longer worth his valuable time to make up another acerbic piece where he could berate both litigant and defendant for being such horrible human beings.

Once it is appropriate for us to talk about some of the finer points in public, I suspect we will do so.  In the mean time, as ever, the mere existence of a court case means we are better off to keep things to ourselves.  Which is, of course, one of the things litigants want to achieve no matter the merits of their actual case.   Whaleoil is currently involved in no fewer than three defamation actions and the only reason these have been brought is not because we defame people, it is because they are forcing us to be silent by weaponising the courts.

Such is life in the fast lane.

Of all the reporters that have covered the case, only Harrison Christian came even close to doing a good job of trying to convey the day’s events for his readers.  And he didn’t phone it in.  All the others were driven by sensational headlines, some wrote articles based on other reports, and in one case just made it all up using generalities in the public domain.

As for sensational headlines – there were lots to choose from.   

Colin Craig’s tactics against Rachel MacGregor revealed

Colin Craig told his lawyer he planned to expose Rachel MacGregor’s “performance failures” during a media storm in which he and his former press secretary would “both end up bloodied”.

An email Craig wrote to his lawyer John McKay detailing the plan was read out in the Auckland High Court on Friday as the former Conservative Party leader and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater sue each other for defamation.

The correspondence took place in June 2015, before a sexual harassment complaint MacGregor took against Craig was settled in mediation. It describes Craig’s strategy to counter the claim in the media.

“If Rachel’s claim is released to media the damage publically [sic] would be significant,” Craig, who denied any sexual harassment, wrote to McKay.

“I have previously been positive about Rachel in the media but if this goes public the advice I have is to issue a statement advising of her performance failures, [suppressed] and pointing out big flaws in her claim.”

“The angle is ‘blackmail attempt fails’ – once you work it through it is a good angle,” Craig continued.

“It will be a media storm of course and we both end up bloodied. In reality though I have nothing left to lose if her claim is printed already – I at least get to balance the story which I have to do for the sake of my family, friends and many thousands of supporters.”

Craig finished cross examining MacGregor in court on Friday, after she was called by Slater’s lawyer to give evidence under subpoena.

It marked the end of an emotional chapter of the trial, which saw MacGregor break down and accuse Craig of doctoring text messages sent between the pair.

The judge-alone trial was originally set down for three weeks, but is expected to go longer.

– Harrison Christian, Stuff

A nod goes to Chris McKeen whose photo has graced these media summaries from the first day as it completely encapsulates Colin Craig at this trial.  Apart from appearing as his witness, his wife Helen has not been in court to support Mr Craig.   And apart from a brief appearance by his father, Mr Craig was mostly unsupported.

Contrary to reports from satirists with an axe to grind, we’ve had the benefit of a regular stream of supporters coming to court.  Thank you all very much.   With the media in general taking the view that, at best, Colin and Cam are both terrible people, to have support in the real world allows us to feel grounded and we know we’re not alone.

As for the merits of the case – that will be up to the judge.  After closing submissions from Mr Craig and Mr Henry, the judge will work on his judgement for what is expected to be at least a month.   Not everyone appreciates that Judge Toogood will only evaluate evidence he considers proven.  All the tears, anger, frustration, non-cooperation and near-contempt of the court all falls away.

Did Cameron Slater defame Colin Craig when he alleged that he had sexually harassed Rachel MacGregor?

Did Cameron Slater defame Colin Craig when he alleged that there existed a second victim?

Did Colin Craig defame Cameron Slater when he created a booklet, named it after Nicky Hager’s book and sent it to 1.6 million households?

Those are the major questions that Judge Toogood will made decisions on.

Defence for defamation includes, in order, fact, honest opinion, qualified privilege.  Whaleoil believes it has fact and honest opinion on its side.   Colin Craig is relying on qualified privilege.  This means that he knows he has defamed Cameron Slater, but wants the court to consider it to be a reasonable and proportionate response and therefore he can get away with it legally.

I’m not sure that if Whaleoil is found to not to have defamed Mr Craig, if Mr Craig is still allowed qualified privilege because in his own mind he found his response proportional, or that his defence fails altogether because you can’t have qualified privilege if there was no defamation against you in the first place.

This is where the law gets to do its thing and where final decisions can sometimes appear counter-intuitive.

Whaleoil is confident we got across the line on our defence against defamation on fact and honest opinion.

As for the other side of the case, we’ll leave that unsaid until Judge Toogood releases his judgement.

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